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Well, it’s been… a week. It’s day 46 of self-isolation/quarantine/social distancing/a new normal, and it’s finally gotten to me. I’ve had a few not-so-good days of not dealing with the waiting game (how long until we can go back to normal? What would that look like? How long until I can travel again?). I saw a post somewhere this week that we may be feeling grief for the way things should have been had the crisis not come along, and that helped put a name to what I was feeling.
Something else that helped me get through these odd feelings was writing. I wrote a good chunk of a new work in progress over the weekend, and it was setting-dominant. Not surprising that writing about a different place that means a lot to me, imagining it and creating a version for storytelling, was a soothing form of escapism. Rather than making me feel even more restless than I already was, imagining and writing about a different place was actually helpful – it’s all about how you spin it.
So for this week’s post, I spin the current situation into a positive reading experience. This post is something of a step away from what I feel comfortable writing, but I liked the challenge. I hope this entertains you, and let me know how you’re keeping sane during whatever day of quarantine it is for you.
She lost track of what day it was. The sun had come up a number of times and he was still here, with his alarm going off some days and not others.
He turns this morning’s alarm off, moans and stretches. She does the same, stretching as long as she can go and turning to her side. She gets up first and bends down to stretch one more time while he says good morning. She turns to look at him and blinks without saying anything before walking to the kitchen.
Her breakfast isn’t ready yet but she hears him in the bathroom; he’s brushing his teeth. She walks over to the window for something to do instead of sitting where he can see her. They live in an apartment in a really high floor, and she spends hours looking out the window on a normal day, but coming to see what has changed every hour is more of an obsession now.
The streets have been empty for days – weeks, maybe – and her usual people-watching opportunities have been traded for watching the odd car, bus or bike now. People still walk the streets, but they all wear masks or hoods even when it’s a sunny day out. She sees dogs more often now, dogs she saw on walks barely once a week before. There’s a great dane who likes to bark at anyone walking across the street, so he gets walked early in the morning or late in the evening. There’s the pair of beagles that used to get walked together that now wag their tails at each other from across the street – their owners wave and swiftly walk away. Her favorite to watch was the fluffy saint Bernard – he used to get a walker every day when the streets were fuller, but now he gets walked by a tall and slender blond woman who gets yanked forward whenever he sees a pigeon.
The pigeons! She hated them but loved to watch them when they perched on the balcony just outside her window. She liked to make noise inside to get them to go away, and since there are so few people in the streets now, they seem to have taken license to fly about more, and they extended that same courtesy to those weird small birds that live in big cities, the kind who rummage through trash and travel in groups of at least 100.
He finally comes out into the kitchen and starts fixing her food.
“What do you feel like today, sweetheart?” He asks, like he’s not just going to give her the same thing as every morning. “Here you go.”
He sets the plate in her usual spot and she goes to eat. As the familiar flavor fills her mouth, he pats her head. She moves her head away and squints at him – he knows better than to bother her while she’s eating. He chuckles and goes off to turn on the coffeemaker and make his own breakfast. While his bread toasts, he goes to the dining room table to turn on his computer.
Another area lost to her while he’s been at home all day, every day: the dining room table. Not that she ate her meals there anyway, but she liked to sit with him while he had his dinner (the only meal he ate at home before). She liked to stare at him, thinking how much he annoyed her when he laughed at something on his phone, with food showing in his open mouth while he chewed and laughed. She also thought how much she loved him, how he knew exactly at what time to prepare her meals every day with minimal reminders from her – no one else could do it just like him. Now, the dining room table has been full of papers she pushes off, pens that she keeps stealing and he keeps replacing, Reese’s wrappers and sticky notes. There is barely any room for her, so she spends her time on the sofa while he works.
He brings his breakfast to the dining table and starts clicking away at the computer, the now-familiar hum of the machine grating at her ears. He talks to himself as he goes, often with his mouth full. He whispers something about campaigns, engagement, lay-offs… she tunes him out and soon is asleep.
These morning naps were great for her. She never got a full-night’s sleep and woke up several times a night to stretch, for a drink, the bathroom, so the morning naps were essential to her daily functioning. She usually laid down on the couch, dozing off to the familiar sounds of cars honking, people yelling and dogs barking. Since the world went quieter, she dozed off to the music he played while clicking away at the computer. Some days the beat is chaotic and disturbing, heavy with guitars, when he barely talks to her except when he yells at her for making too much noise to scare away the pigeons. Other days, the days when her morning naps last until noon, it’s softer music that he hums along to, and his hums are easy to fall asleep to until he interrupts himself by talking more about campaigns and sales.
There isn’t any music playing today, so she dozes off to the silence but doesn’t completely fall asleep. She dreams about pigeons again, except this time they’re as big as the saint Bernard and they’re walking next to each other and they’re the same size. At one point the pigeon is walking the saint Bernard while the slender, blond woman is running in circles around them before falling with a clang and–
She’s awake and searches for the source of the noise. It’s him, dropping the pan he used to fry his eggs in the sink. She yells at him and shoots daggers from her eyes.
“Sorry, my love.”
Awake and pissed off, she stretches and then walks to the window again. Nothing had really changed since this morning. The streets were still empty and the people walking by were still wearing masks. It’s a cloudy day, and there aren’t a lot of dogs out today either.
“Anything interesting out there, princess?” He walks up next to her and they both look out the window for a minute. He’s drinking his second cup of coffee of the day. “What I wouldn’t give for a cup of coffee outside that I didn’t have to make myself.”
What I wouldn’t give for you to go outside in general.
He pats her head again and she lets him – the mussing feels good and she has an itch behind her ear anyway. She stays at the window for a little bit longer and as she’s pondering whether to go for a bath or another nap, noise starts up from the computer again but it isn’t music – it’s voices.
“Good morning, team,” he says and waves at the screen. The greetings come back from a handful of people. She’d gotten used to these daily occurrences too, but she didn’t like them. Since he’d been home, he not only ignored her most of the day, but he talked on the computer to people multiple times a day. It wasn’t as loud as the music, but she still fell asleep to the sound and tried to distinguish his voice from the hum.
“What’s on the agenda for today?” This sparks another conversation on the other end, and while the people on the line chat on the other end, he mostly nods, hums and sips his coffee.
The conversation distracts her from her window watching so she goes up to the dining table to see when he’ll be finished. She pokes her head in front of the screen and immediately gets a lot of greetings.
“Oh my gosh, hi, Brandy!”
“Brandy, you’re looking gorgeous!”
She knows she looks gorgeous – she takes care of her skin every day during her baths. She keeps her head in front of the screen until he acknowledges her, and when he finally does, it’s to shoo her away.
“Sorry, guys, she’s having a morning. Where were we?”
She walks away from the dining table and goes back to the sofa, picking at some skin on her side. After a while, he says goodbye and shuts his computer closed. She looks around to him and realizes it’s lunchtime again – he sits with her at lunchtime, so she scoots to the far side of the sofa. On his way to the kitchen, he stops by her side and pats her on the head again. She lets him because she enjoys his touch.
“You’re such a good girl,” he says as he strokes her. “What would I do without you?”
Be incredibly lonely as you continue to never leave the apartment. How much longer will he have to be here? She wants him to leave so she can get excited when he comes through the door again.
“Good kitty,” he says with one final pat before heading to the kitchen for another lunch at home.